Inspire Positive Aging Awards

Clockwise from top left: Dori Gillam, Trudy James, Mohan Khandekar, Val Brustad, Shirin Velji, Sadru Kachra, Jessie Strauss.

Every year, Sound Generations senior services presents the Inspire Positive Aging awards to celebrate older adults who engage with their communities, challenge stereotypes about aging, and serve as valuable sources of wisdom and experience. Read about this year’s winners!

Dori Gillam, Lifelong Learning: Dori is energetic and leads by example, demonstrating what it means to age positively. Whether it’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or participating in the Women’s March with her friends— young and old—Dori lives life to the fullest. She spends time speaking about aging and hosting presentations designed to shift how we think about aging and our older neighbors. Through use of humor and personal stories, Dori teaches that your older years don’t have to be molded by preconceived ideas about aging. She encourages people to advocate for themselves because she’s seen firsthand the dignity that can be erased as you age. Through Wisdom Cafés she ignites conversations about aging, even delving into topics that we usually don’t discuss when it comes to older adults.

Trudy James, Advocacy & Activism: Trudy has dedicated years coming to understand death and grief in new and deeper ways. She is a credentialed interfaith chaplain and owner of a small business called Heartwork. From 1989 to 2007, she directed programs for AIDS CareTeam, Cancer Care Alliance. At age 76, she tried her hand at documentary filmmaking and created Speaking of Dying presentations, annual retreats and end-of-life planning sessions. Trudy has become a social media pro and maintains her website and Facebook page. Her happy demeanor, energy and her commitment to her work inspire many. Trudy says that getting older is a privilege and that her life is better than ever at 82. She is the oldest person in her yoga class; her commitment to mind, body, heart and spirit shows others what is possible for aging.

Mohan Khandekar, Community Service: Retirement gave Mohan the ability to take his passion for volunteering to new heights. He is an active volunteer and spends 20 to 22 hours each week volunteering, but still finds time to be a loving family man. Mohan has been a lead volunteer at Northshore Senior Center, an Information Resource Person for SeaTac, an assistant badminton coach at Kirkland Middle School and Lake Washington High School, is a board member for the Kenmore Community Club, is the audio/video/photography and graphics resource chief for the India Association of Western Washington, and works with children at the Seattle Art Museum. He helps diverse communities with enthusiasm and good cheer—it makes him a living example of someone who has aged well and inspires others to do the same.

Val Brustad, Defining Inspiration: Val leads a life that makes you think of aging in terms of impact rather than years. Having been a caretaker for his mother who had Alzheimer’s, he supported his wife who was an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator. After Val’s wife passed away unexpectedly, he stepped up and trained to continue the group in her honor. His sense of aging is communicated in terms of being and making sure that no one is left alone. Rather than focusing on his loss, Val focuses on the needs of others. Each person involved in the support group can attest to how Val’s words, his vulnerability, his wisdom has shaped their perspective on caregiving and grief. It is this influence that inspires those around him to be more forgiving to themselves, to get up and fight another day.